Nipah virus infection

Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus is fruit bats of the Pt1280px-Henipavirus_structure.svgeropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.881px-Seychelles_Fruit_Bat_-_Pteropus_seychellensis_4

NiV was first identified during an outbreak of disease that took place in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998. On this occasion, pigs were the intermediate hosts. However, in subsequent NiV outbreaks, there were no intermediate hosts. In Bangladesh in 2004, humans became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented, including in a hospital setting in India.

NiV infection in humans has a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection to the acute respiratory syndrome and fatal encephalitis. NiV is also capable of causing disease in pigs and other domestic animals. There is no vaccine for either humans or animals. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care.800px-Pteropus_giganteus_fg01

In brief:

  • Nipah virus infection in humans causes a range of clinical presentations, from asymptomatic infection (subclinical) to acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis.
  • The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%. This rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for epidemiological surveillance and clinical management.
  • Nipah virus can be transmitted to humans from animals (such as bats or pigs), or contaminated foods and can also be transmitted directly from human-to-human.
  • Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are the natural host of Nipah virus.
  • There is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals. The primary treatment for humans is supportive care.
  • The 2018 annual review of the WHO R&D Blueprint list of priority diseases indicates that there is an urgent need for accelerated research and development for the Nipah virus.

Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus (it is transmitted from animals to humans) and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people. In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.Hendra-distribution-map

Although Nipah virus has caused only a few known outbreaks in Asia, it infects a wide range of animals and causes severe disease and death in people, making it a public health concern.

Past Outbreaks

Nipah virus was first recognized in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in, Malaysia. No new outbreaks have been reported in Malaysia since 1999.

It was also recognized in Bangladesh in 2001, and nearly annual outbreaks have occurred in that country since. The disease has also been identified periodically in eastern India.

Other regions may be at risk for infection, as evidence of the virus has been found in the known natural reservoir (Pteropus bat species) and several other bat species in a number of countries, including Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Thailand.



During the first recognized outbreak in Malaysia, which also affected Singapore, most human infections resulted from direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissues. Transmission is thought to have occurred via unprotected exposure to secretions from the pigs, or unprotected contact with the tissue of a sick animal.

In subsequent outbreaks in Bangladesh and India, consumption of fruits or fruit products (such as raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats was the most likely source of infection.

There are currently no studies on viral persistence in bodily fluids or the environment including fruits.

Human-to-human transmission of Nipah virus has also been reported among family and caregivers of infected patients.

During the later outbreaks in Bangladesh and India, Nipah virus spread directly from human-to-human through close contact with people’s secretions and excretions. In Siliguri, India in 2001, transmission of the virus was also reported within a health-care setting, where 75% of cases occurred among hospital staff or visitors. From 2001 to 2008, around half of reported cases in Bangladesh were due to human-to-human transmission through providing care to infected patients.

Source: WHO World Health Organisation